Editorial

How the Nokia Lumia 920 could be improved

Arguably the market favorite Windows Phone flagship, the Nokia Lumia 920 has been available to purchase on certain networks around the world since November. I've reviewed it already, and I've been using it on and off for some time now, including as a key navigational tool for a recent road trip I went on with a few mates. Its excellent low-light PureView camera and crisp PureMotion HD+ display are some defining and truly great features about the device.

As you may have noticed though, I didn't award the phone a perfect 10/10 score, which naturally indicates that there are some flaws to be found. Had Nokia had more time to develop the phone, or if the technology and costs permitted, there are a few things that I would like to have seen incorporated to make the phone even better.

1. Make it slimmer and lighter

I copped quite some flack in the comments of my Lumia 920 review for mentioning the phone is both thick and heavy by today's standards. All sorts of reasons were thrown around to justify why this is, including that it's "rock solid" and that because I felt the weight I'm "biased" and should "head to the gym", but I absolutely will not back down on the fact that the Lumia 920 is heavier and thicker than it needs to be. 

In a smartphone, weight and size is definitely not a mark of a premium product; in fact it's quite the opposite: The slimmer and lighter your phone is, the better it is perceived not only by consumers (see: iPhone 5), but also tech enthusiasts (see: Droid RAZR). The unnecessary heft of the Lumia 920 (180g, 10.7mm) may make it feel solid, but not any more solid than a selection of other phones I've used, including the HTC One X (130g, 8.9mm), Motorola RAZR HD (146g, 8.4mm) and Nexus 4 (139g, 9.1mm).

I have complete faith in Nokia's research and development team that, if they really wanted to, they'd be able to slim down the Lumia 920 to the thinness of the Nexus 4 while shedding at least 40 grams of weight and keeping in the same awesome technology and keeping it as strong. In fact rumor has it this is exactly what they are doing with their next flagship device, and it's by far the number one improvement that could be made.

If the Lumia 920 was a slimmer and lighter, it would be more accessible, easier to hold, less of a burden on your pocket, visually more impressive, and much easier to recommend as a flagship phone. Before you try and (yet again) justify the heft of the 920, ask yourself this: would you prefer a Nokia Lumia 920, or a slimmer, lighter Nokia Lumia 920?

2. Fix the camera in good lighting conditions

While Nokia spent a lot of time perfecting the camera in low light conditions, it seems their engineers have neglected tweaking how the camera performs when there is actually enough light. The issues stem from some weird automatic white balance, exposure and tinting that can - in slightly imperfect conditions - result in photos that look simply wrong. I covered this phenomenon in more detail in my review, but basically photos often don't look like their real-life counterparts.

Notice the fence on the right? That's not supposed to be green...

I find this disappointing as the majority of my phone photography occurs during the day when lighting conditions are quite good, and I'm sure the same is the case for many other users. For the Lumia 920's camera to truly be one of the best on the market, the daylight performance should be just as good as the low-light capabilities, and the quality should be comparable to powerhouse camera smartphones such as the Galaxy S III and iPhone 5.

Apparently a fix for this is on the way, but as my Lumia 920 has yet to receive it, it still goes on the list of things that could be improved. Plus, there's no guarantees that the patch will fully fix the daylight camera performance and metering, but it's certainly something that can be corrected in the software.

3. Add a microSD card slot

Generally speaking, 32 GB of storage is plenty for everyone to store their favorite photos, music, apps and videos, but I can't help but feel as if a microSD card slot would make the phone better. More options for the consumer should be the mark of a premium product, which is why I find it strange that the mid-range Lumia 820 has expandable storage but the flagship Lumia 920 does not.

Along the top edge of the Lumia 920 is a pop-out slot for the SIM card, and I could have easily envisioned a microSD card slot tucked away somewhere inside there. The fact that the Lumia 820 can have a total of 70 GB of storage (with a 64 GB microSD card) but the Lumia 920 can only have 32 GB just annoys me a little bit, so I would have ideally liked to see a microSD card slot on the device.

4. Improve the front-facing camera

A front-facing camera is not exactly the most used feature on a smartphone, but it's one area where the Lumia 920 is not as good as the HTC Windows Phone 8X. To complement the generally great rear PureView camera, a better front-facing camera with a quality sensor and perhaps a wider-angle lens could have been included. Also, for those people that enjoy creating videos of themselves, 1080p recording through the front camera would be welcome.

5. Kill off the carrier-exclusive deals

This isn't exactly something that could be specifically improved about the hardware or software of the Lumia 920, but more something about the execution of the launch and availability of the device. The Lumia 920's worldwide availability is hindered by a number of carrier-exclusive deals that see the phone restricted, for an unspecified amount of time, to only one network in a number of countries. In the United States, for example, the 920 is available only on AT&T, whereas both the HTC 8X and Lumia 820 (and its variants) are more widely available.

Overall the Lumia 920 is a great device, but these deals are severely restricting the amount of people that have access to the phone. I don't believe that Windows Phone or this device has enough brand power to pull a significant number of people to a certain network (unlike the iPhone, for example), meaning those that currently prefer other networks are left without access to an innovative piece of hardware.

These sorts of deals may benefit Nokia financially, but it's hurting consumers' choices, and also Windows Phone 8 as a whole. Without the ability to purchase a major flagship device running the OS (save for the Windows Phone 8X), people could be swayed to an Android device on the network of their choice, reducing the uptake and exposure of Windows Phone. In turn this leads to less developers wanting to code on the platform and so on; you know how the story goes by now.

Killing the carrier-exclusive deals and letting the Lumia 920 run wild on a wide selection of networks would be a huge improvement to people's access to the phone and the platform.

Got anything else to add? Let us know how you'd improve the Nokia Lumia 920 in the comments below.

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